Niki Lauda, considered to be one of the greatest all-time Formula 1 drivers, sadly passed away on the 20th of May but left behind him one of the proudest legacies.
The early years were difficult for Lauda. His family disapproved so strongly of him racing that they stopped speaking to him. He also didn’t have the funding to pursue the very passion causing this feud, racing. Many people would’ve given up at this point but he wasn’t deterred.
Lauda took out a £30,000 loan to buy into Formula 2 with March. He was a highly skilled driver and was fast-tracked to Formula 1 where the March team was not up to standard. The frustration led him to take another loan and buying into the BRM team where his ability was noticed by a fellow driver who would later recommend him to Enzo Ferrari himself.
Lauda debuted with Ferrari in 1974 finishing 4th in the championship and in 1975, the very next season, he lifted his first World Championship. In the 1976 championship, he was far ahead of his rivals on the points table, double the next closest driver. Before the German leg at Nurburgring, he encouraged the other drivers to boycott the race due to the danger it posed, despite being the fastest driver on the circuit. In his second lap on race day Lauda’s car veered off the track, hit a barrier and burst into flames. He was severely burned, nearly died from toxic fume inhalation and would be scarred for life but he was back in the driver’s seat after missing only two races. He lost the 1976 championship by a single point but would be remembered for not giving up despite immense fear. This season was the focal point of the sports-film ‘Rush’ which was a dramatisation of his life and that of his rival James Hunt.
Lauda would go on to win two more championships and be the only driver to win championships with Ferrari and McLaren. He became a business owner founding Lauda Air, Niki and Laudamotion and later joined the Mercedes advisory team that has come to dominate modern F1.